As someone who started out this life as a rather conservative fundamentalist Christian attending a Baptist Church and has since become a rather liberal, goddess-worshipping Vanic witch with a fancy for other guys, I know first-hand just how much a person can change over time. Fortunately for me, I’ve met some precious people in this world who also understood that and could embrace those changes. After all, had everyone simply chosen to look at my origins, I would be rather lonely right now.
To explore the memory that I’d like to write about, I first need to set up some background. In college, I was an active member in both my campus’s chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and an “alternative ministry” program specific to my college called Acts 29. In fact, 99% of my non-academic life revolved around these two groups.
Of course, this meant I was very Christian and quite conservative in my outlook at this time, too. I felt that Christianity was the One True Religion(tm) and that homosexuality was a horrible sin. (Yes, I suspect I even uttered the baleful “love the sinner, hate the sin” phrase at least once during my college career.) Now, I wasn’t particularly antagonistic in my opinion (and a few of the gay students I’ve talked to since would even agree). I didn’t organize or stage protests. I didn’t stand outside of BGLASS (my college’s version of a gay student union) meetings and harass its members or any such thing. For the most part, I basically ignored the very existence of gay and bisexual students on campus. (Of course, I might argue that this is even worse than the things I didn’t do.) But if you asked anyone on campus who knew me, I guarantee you they knew my views.
So when my own prison-closet cracked open and I began to accept and come to terms with my own gayness, I found myself in a bit of a sticky situation. Most of my friends were of the “homosexuality is a sin” mentality, and the group that was best equipped to help me at this point in my life was filled with people I had managed to alienate, even if only indirectly. So I spent the last couple of months of my college career in a sort of limbo, only finding support from a small group of friends involved with the computer consultants (another on-campus project dedicated to helping fellow students resolve their computer problems).
And then of course, there was ISCA BBS. I had been introduced to the Telnet-based BBS (if you don’t know what any of that means, think of it as a sort of precursor to message forums that litter the Word Wide Web today) back when I was a freshman. It included discussion forums for discussing gay issues and even had an invite-only support group for LGBT-folk. I found a lot of support and helpful information there, which was boon for me. Not only that, it was something I managed to stick with after college, when living in rural PA.
Well, my worlds did collide to some degree. An old member of BGLASS (who graduated at least a year before I did), Rob, was also on ISCA BBS. What’s more, he knew my username. Well, needless to say, Rob remembered who I was and my beliefs and attitudes prior to coming out. And while he didn’t make too big of an issue of my past (in fact, he only ever mentioned it twice and was even one of the people to admit I wasn’t “too bad” when it came to stuff like harassing people), it was also pretty clear that he wasn’t exactly ready to think of it as water long passed under the bridge either.
What amazed me, however, was the reaction he received from other users of the BBS on the second time he brought up my past. I forget what exactly Rob said. To be honest, I didn’t find it all that objectionable, as he simply brought the subject up. Granted, it did give me pause to feel a twinge of guilt due to such memories, but I took it in stride. However, at least one of the long-standing members of the discussion group was not so willing to just let thing be. This individual instead chose to very pointedly remind Rob that my past was not relevant and that who I am today (or that day, as I’ve further changed since even then) was what was relevant. Indeed, this person seemed quite incensed that Rob would even bring up such distasteful skeletons.
Now, I’ve never been one to try and hide or even deny my past. I won’t beat myself up for them either, instead choosing simply to acknowledge that I made some bad choices in the past. But I was and still am grateful that there were those people who were willing to let those bad choices go and instead embrace the person I had become. I think some times, we all need people like that. May the gods bless those who accept that we may not be the same person today as we were yesterday. It grants us the freedom to continue that transformation tomorrow.